Above the valleys and above the meres
over woods and mountains, clouds and ocean, past
the sun, the depths of ether, and the vast
utmost boundaries of the starry spheres,
my spirit, you are nimble in your flight,
like a good swimmer blissful in the billow;
gaily through the profound void you furrow
with an ineffable and male delight.
Fly far away from these unhealthful vapors,
go purify yourself in loftier air,
drinking, like a pure and heavenly liquor,
the clear fire brimming our limpid space.
Beyond the boredoms, the immense chagrins
which weight our foggy lives with their dark burden,
happy is he who can with vigorous wings
win to the serene and radiant gardens;
happy the man whose thoughts, like blithe larks flying
in the skies of morning, freely use their powers
--who, hovering over life, knows without trying
the tongues of silent things and of the flowers.
--Charles Baudelaire 1857
trans. C. F. MacIntyre, modified ll. 12 by S. Smith
Read this poem more than once, please!
This is a poem to be tasted, to be soared with, for Baudelaire to sing us. Oh, a longing for a purer mode, for a freedom and weightlessness that is, surprisingly at the end of the poem, rooted on the earth itself--in the tongues of silent things and of the flowers. Indeed, to bring the reader so full circle in this poem really askswhat it might mean for a person to embark on this journey--how to rise so high that one is beyond ether?
Beyond ether is God, in Aristotle's cosmology. Beneath things are heavy, weighty, foggy...
There are a few lines in this poem that I just cannot forget; in the third stanza, Baudelaire writes that we could drink, "like a pure and heavenly liquor, / the clear fire brimming our limpid space." At the very edges of our reality, or perhaps showing through its seams, what is there?
The poet has a taste of it.